Cover art for podcast Leadership communications with Rob Cottingham

Leadership communications with Rob Cottingham

74 EpisodesProduced by Rob CottinghamWebsite

I've worked as a speechwriter, presentation coach and communication strategist—not to mention delivering my share of speeches. From speechwriting and speaking to traditional and social media, here's my best advice on how leaders can communicate to change how audiences see the world.

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Ep. 75. Getting back on track

May 5th, 2023


Getting carried off on a tangent in an interview or Q&A session can be risky. At best, you spend the time you wanted to use getting your message across on some other topic. At worst, you end up talking about …

Ep. 74 Why you need to rehearse — and how

March 30th, 2023


Rehearsal doesn’t kill spontaneity — it gives you the confidence that lets you be spontaneous. You don't just know the material: you know its emotional and literal meaning,nd you've made your big choices about how …

Ep. 73 No more boring speaker introductions!

June 23rd, 2022


Before a speaker steps up to the microphone, there's usually somebody who introduces them. And that introduction could be helping to set the stage …

Ep. 72 Dana Rubin is Speaking While Female

March 1st, 2022


Pick up a collection of speeches or quotations from history, and chances are most of those voices belong to men.

That's changing. More women are …

Ep. 71 Get out of your lane

October 18th, 2021


You’ve probably heard the expression “stay in your lane.” And sometimes that’s good advice — but right now, we’re facing global emergencies on an unprecedented scale, and we need voices speaking out for truth, …

Ep. 70 Find Your Red Thread with Tamsen Webster

July 29th, 2021

There probably isn’t a speechwriter or speaker alive today who hasn’t heard the advice “Tell a story.” But you want them to do more than listen. You want to tell the kind of story your audience will turn into their

Ep. 69 Seven deadly sins of online presentation (part two)

July 20th, 2021


Well over a year into remote presentations as the norm, people are getting pretty good at it... but some mistakes are still cropping up again and again.

Last time, we looked at four of the seven deadly sins of online …

Ep. 68 Seven deadly sins of online presentations (part one)

July 20th, 2021


Well over a year into remote presentations as the norm, people are getting pretty good at it... but some mistakes are still cropping up again and again.

In this two-episode series, we'll meet the seven deadly sins of …

Ep. 67. Avoiding plagiarism: Are your words really your own?

June 25th, 2021


Sure, you and I would never take someone else’s writing and pretend it was our own. But not all plagiarism is deliberate. It can be surprisingly easy …

Ep. 66. Keep the "thought" in thought leadership

June 4th, 2021


So many leadership communications mistakes come down to one thing: not having a clear goal and a roadmap to get there. That’s especially true when it comes to areas where leaders aren’t as familiar with the subject …

Ep. 65. What we've learned from a year of remote presentations

April 28th, 2021


Public speaking has changed a lot in the past year, since conference halls and auditoriums went dark and we traded stages and amplifiers for webcams and video. But those changes can help us be better speakers, when the …

Ep. 64 I now pronounce you... correctly

March 16th, 2021


Mispronouncing someone's name from the stage is a lot more than a minor screwup. Here's why speakers should never go to the mic without knowing the …

Ep. 63. Less is more, and short is beautiful

October 5th, 2020


Presenting online? Don't make the mistake of thinking longer is better. When you're speaking via video, you want to keep things short. Here's how to …

Ep. 62. Zoom out! You're more than just another face

September 22nd, 2020


If you're spending all day in Zoom meetings, then it's easy to think that speaking by video automatically means showing your head and shoulders... …

61. Go big AND go home: Why you need to amp up your online energy for work-at-home audiences

September 8th, 2020


You might have thought up-close video would be more intimate than speaking from the stage. But one big thing we're learning from remote presentations …

Ep. 60. The pivot: Mozilla adapts to communicating in the lockdown

May 1st, 2020


This time, we look at how the technology visionaries at Mozilla are making the pivot from face-to-face leadership communications to virtual channels. …

Ep. 59. Leadership communication through curation

March 25th, 2020


If sharing really is caring, then the content you share needs to be content you really care about — and content your audience will care about too.

This episode we look at content curation... and why just shovelling …

Ep. 58. Going virtual (and staying human)

March 14th, 2020


With so many face-to-face presentations being cancelled, a lot of speakers are looking at going virtual. But with webinars and online conferences suddenly getting a second look, it’s important to keep in mind their …

Ep. 57. Making the best of a cancelled speech

March 14th, 2020


Cancelled speaking gigs are a fact of life, but never more than today. And hey: with social distancing and disease prevention rightly taking precedence over oratory, we know better than to feel sorry for ourselves over …

Ep. 56. Leadership communications in a crisis (part two)

March 10th, 2020


Getting leadership communications right is never more important than in the middle of a crisis. And as COVID-19 coronavirus outbreaks happening throughout much of the world, you may well be facing a crisis soon.

Last …

Ep. 55. Leadership communications in a crisis (part one)

March 9th, 2020


In a crisis, people are looking for reassurance, a sense of security... and leadership. And with COVID-19 coronavirus outbreaks happening across the planet, you may soon need to step up on behalf of your organization — …

Ep. 54. It's called public speaking. Not public singing.

February 21st, 2020


Are you falling into the trap of sing-song delivery? You could be sapping your speech's strength and breaking your connection to the audience. Here's …

Ep. 53. How to Talk to Experts

January 21st, 2020


Sooner or later speechwriters and other leadership communications practitioners find ourselves talking to a subject matter expert: somebody (usually part of your client's organization) who’s going to give some of their …

Ep. 52. Drop the pitch!

December 11th, 2019


It can be tempting to sell from the stage... especially when you know some of the people in your audience could be great customers. But resist that …

Ep. 51. Zoom in on your audience

November 21st, 2019


Having trouble connecting emotionally with a speech you're writing or rehearsing? Maybe it's because you're trying to speak to the whole audience …

Ep. 50. The Pigeon of Dorian Gray

November 1st, 2019


I'm always telling you to tell stories... so for the 50th episode of the podcast, I'm going to share one of my own. It's about what a dead pigeon taught me about being a good speechwriter.

Music: Theme: "Good Times" by

Ep. 49. What kind of emotional connection do you want with your audience?

October 24th, 2019


Coming up empty as you try to write your speech? Wondering why your presentations aren't landing quite as well as you know they should? You probably …

Ep. 48. Find your speaker superpowers in your origin story

October 17th, 2019


For some reason, we love to hear how superheroes got their powers — their origin stories. And audiences will want to hear yours, too. Here's how to tell the story of how you got here in a way that connects with your …

Ep. 47. Careful with that spotlight!

October 1st, 2019


As leaders, it can be tempting to forget that not everyone likes being the centre of attention. And when you have an audience, you can all too easily throw a harsh, unforgiving spotlight onto someone who isn't ready for …

Ep. 46. "Long Shot" and why speakers and speechwriters need some one-on-one time

September 27th, 2019


This summer’s film Long Shot is an entire movie about how speechwriter and speaker relate to each other. And it has something to teach us about making that relationship work — and how the key ingredient is time.

If …

Ep. 45. What HBO can teach us about how NOT to write a speech

September 18th, 2019


What does a speech look like stripped of the craft of speechwriting? HBO's hit show Succession gave us a glimpse with a hilarious eulogy delivered by …

Ep. 44. Speakers, have a seat (in the audience)

August 13th, 2019


You can write a speech for a someone. Read it through. Rehearse with the speaker. But you won’t really know how effective it is unless you’re there …

Ep. 43. "How do you do, fellow kids?" Speaking to young audiences

August 9th, 2019


A lot of speakers who'd happily get up in front of a thousand-person audience start getting the shakes at the thought of speaking to children or …

Ep. 42. Speechwriters of the world, unite! Creating communities of practice: interview with Elana Aptowitzer

August 6th, 2019


Writing is usually a pretty solitary pursuit. But solitary doesn’t have to mean isolated. Find out how Elana Aptowitzer created a community of …

Ep. 41. Changing the world... with op-eds

August 2nd, 2019


We’ve focused on speaking and speechwriting in the podcast — but there’s more than one way to connect with an audience. And one of the best: the venerable op-ed piece.

About my guest: Today’s guest knows op-eds better …

Ep. 40. Cop an attitude — and take a stand

July 26th, 2019


If you really want your audience to care about what you're saying, they need to know you care about it too. And that starts with the attitude you project... and the stands you're willing to take.

Music: Theme: "Good …

Ep. 39. Quote me on that

July 19th, 2019


Quotations are one of a speechwriter's essential tools — right up there with metaphors, jokes and 3 a.m. espresso. But borrowed eloquence doesn't …

Ep. 38. To tell the truth

July 16th, 2019


Most of us like to think of ourselves as basically honest people. But as speakers and speechwriters, it's surprisingly easy to find ourselves …

Ep. 37. Making the most of a rally speech, with guest Tzeporah Berman: part 2

July 11th, 2019


Political protest is on the rise — and with it, a growing need for leaders to speak to protest rallies. This episode, we talk with veteran …

Ep. 36. Making the most of a rally speech, with guest Tzeporah Berman: part 1

July 11th, 2019


Political protest is on the rise — and with it, a growing need for leaders to speak to protest rallies. This episode, we talk with veteran …

Ep. 35. Speechwriters on stage

July 8th, 2019


Want to be a better speechwriter? One of the best ways to improve your speechwriting is to get out from behind your keyboard and get in front of an …

Ep. 34. When the questions get tough, the tough get prepared

June 30th, 2019


It may be in a media interview, a Q&A, a debate or a townhall. But when you're a leader, chances are sooner or later you're going to face tough questions. It just comes with the territory.

The key to being ready for …

Ep. 33. Cue the theatrics! What speakers (and speechwriters) can learn from actors

June 22nd, 2019


What does acting have to do with authenticity? More than you might think. This episode, we look at how the tools actors bring to their most …

Ep. 32. Getting started in speechwriting

June 14th, 2019


There's no well-worn, signposted career path to being a speechwriter. That's the bad news. The good news? There are plenty of other paths in. This episode, we look at how to break into speechwriting — and some lessons …

Ep. 31. Sorry seems to be the hardest word: delivering a great apology

June 5th, 2019


None of us is perfect, and sooner or later, leaders have to apologize for something. Sometimes it’s something out of your control; sometimes it …

Ep. 30. Build your organization's podium strength.

May 14th, 2019


Over the past 29 episodes, we've looked at how you can be a better, more effective speaker and speechwriter. For episode 30, let's magnify your …

Ep. 29. Broaden your media diet

May 9th, 2019


This episode, we talk about how expanding the kinds of media you like to read, watch and listen to can make you a better speechwriter and speaker.

Links: The 100-Mile Diet by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon


Ep. 28. Listen to speakers outside your niche

May 7th, 2019


Niches are great places to develop a deep understanding of audience and subject matter, and to build community... but they can get pretty insular. …

Ep. 27. Make your speech a content factory

May 2nd, 2019


Speeches are amazing. They can move audiences, inspire crowds... and they can help you create new content, quickly and easily! In this episode, we'll look at 10 ways you can repurpose your next speech into high-impact …

Ep. 26. Think strategically

April 30th, 2019


When it comes to your organization's leadership speaking, you have strategic resources in play and strategic values on the line. That makes a pretty good case for a speaking strategy. Here's how to take the first steps …

Ep. 25. Build a platform

April 25th, 2019


The applause from your speech may have faded, but the connection you make with your audience doesn't have to. Engaging online can help you deepen and broaden your audience relationship, while building a growing network …

Ep. 24. Review your performance

April 23rd, 2019


Who are the top performers who need to review their performances so they can improve? Athletes... actors... and speakers like you! This episode, let's talk about how to review and improve your speaking and your content.

Ep. 23. Go all in

April 18th, 2019


This episode ties together everything we've talked about around speech delivery with one big idea for truly powerful speaking: commitment.


Ep. 22. Own the space

April 16th, 2019


Break out of the lectern cage! Make the stage your own... and learn how to use movement to deepen your presentation's connection to your audience. …

Ep. 21. Make the most of your voice on stage

April 11th, 2019


When you treat your voice as an instrument (and not an afterthought!) great things happen to your speeches... and to your audiences. This episode, we …

Ep. 20. Hey! The audience's eyes are up here! And over here... and...

April 9th, 2019


For once, the conventional wisdom has it right: eye contact with your audience is powerful. Here's how to put it to work for you — even when you have …

Ep. 19. Get your hands dirty

April 4th, 2019


Roll up your sleeves... because this episode we talk about the tools of the public speaking trade. And one tool in particular: your microphone.


Ep. 18. Prepare... even when you don't have time

April 2nd, 2019


I'm all about encouraging speakers to prepare and rehearse — but let's face it. There are times when you just haven't had a moment to prepare, and now it's 10 minutes 'til stage time.

So maybe this isn't going to be a …

Ep. 17. Practice. No, really practice.

March 28th, 2019


Think rehearsal and preparation kills your spontaneity? This episode could change your mind — by showing you how rehearsal actually frees you to make …

Ep. 16. Don't just read your speech. Perform it.

March 26th, 2019


This episode, we pivot from speechwriting to speaking itself. And we start with the single biggest way most speakers can level up: authentic performance.

Links: Steal the Show by Michael Port is a smashing book on …

Ep. 15. How to get great feedback on your speech

March 21st, 2019


How often have you asked for feedback with "let me know what you think"?

If you're trying to spark conversation, it isn't a bad gambit. But if you want actionable feedback on your speech, you need to use a much more …

Ep. 14. Get your audience to expect more... of themselves.

March 19th, 2019


Your speech has brought your audience on an emotional odyssey, and you've reached your narrative destination together. Now's the time to invite them …

Ep. 13. Don't meet your audience's expectations

March 14th, 2019


...Wait, what?

By all means, meet — or beat — your audience's expectations for what they'll get out of your speech. But not for what you put into it. Here's how to be surprising... and unpredictable, but reliable.


Ep. 12. Make your audience a little uncomfortable

March 12th, 2019


Every instinct tells us to make our audiences comfortable. Yet a little discomfort can lead to some of the most powerful experiences your speech can …

Ep. 11. Use slides well... if at all

March 7th, 2019


The world is full of speeches weighed down with terrible slide decks. Don't let yours be one of them. This episode, we look at how to make PowerPoint …

Ep. 10. Ease up on the statistics

March 5th, 2019


When your speech unleashes a flood of statistics, you can lose your audience's interest — and their emotional connection — fast. Let's talk about how to chose a gem of a statistic and put it in the perfect setting... …

Ep. 8: Consider all of your audiences

February 26th, 2019


The folks in the room are just one of the audiences your speech is going to reach. Here's how to think through who else may be listening in... and …

Ep. 7. Use plain language... but not just plain language

February 21st, 2019


Plain language can make your speech a lot clearer, and allow your ideas and thinking to shine through. But there are times when speechwriters and speakers want to reach for the more complex words... and even use (gasp!)

Ep. 6. Defend your narrative arc

February 19th, 2019


Between "helpful" suggestions from others and your own creativity, it often isn't easy keeping a speech on topic and on track. Here are some tools …

Ep. 5. Get vulnerable

February 14th, 2019


You've probably always been told to project confidence and certainty  when you're speaking from the stage. But if you want to truly connect with your …

Ep. 4. Plot Your Emotional Arc

February 12th, 2019


We've talked about your speech's one big story, the narrative arc. But running in tandem with it is something at least as important to your audience: the emotional arc.

Music:Upbeat” by Jon Luc Hefferman, used under a …

Ep. 3. Tell one big story... with your audience as the hero.

February 2nd, 2019


There are almost as many ways to approach writing a speech as there are speeches. But each one boils down to a story — one where the audience can …

Ep. 2. Know your audience

February 2nd, 2019


Before you can move an audience to where you'd like them to be, you need to know them. And that means a lot more than a head count. Here's what to look for, and where to find it — so you know exactly how to reach and …

Ep. 1. Know what you want to accomplish

February 2nd, 2019


The first thing you need to know before you start crafting a speech is this: what's your goal? What do you want your audience to think, feel and do …

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